Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Legacy Letters. What was your inspiration for it?
A: The inspiration behind The Legacy Letters?—I had an early mid-life crisis. I wasn’t in need of a new wife and a Cadillac. (Besides, I wasn’t married and I drove an old beat-up Chevy.) What I needed was the opportunity to take my soul out for a long, long walk. While working in Hollywood on feature films in the art department, I realized that the celluloid bright-lights lifestyle I was living was making me materially richer but spiritually depleted. The long journey back to reclaim my soul began with a series of “drive-abouts” throughout the Western United Sates and ended up in a small bar in Southern Arizona. I asked an old cowboy if there was any work nearby and he told me about a fencing job “far from the heck and gone.”
Thirty miles by dirt road and with not a house in sight, I ended up at my job on the open range putting up post holes and barbed wire fence—mostly alone and for days on end. Twenty-five years had gone by since I had last seriously picked up the pen, and like a god-given divining rod, that pen roared back to life. For six months, I worked by day, washing in a horse trough, cooking by campfire, and living in a tent. At night, I wrote by lantern light on the back of my pickup.
In a sense, I had come full circle. When I was growing up, my grandfather had a small ranch in Washington State. And now, here I was, back on a ranch, working as a cowboy in the high mountains of the Great Sonoran Desert. Imagine a place where the stars are so bright at night that they almost hurt your eyes. Imagine not seeing a soul for days on end. Imagine what true quiet is—the noise of wind and rain, coyotes and birds, grass rustling and the chink of the pickaxe against the hard soil.
I had come back “home” to write this book. This is where I reclaimed my soul and began the life
I was always supposed to live—but never knew quite how to find. Only by giving up the security of everything I knew could I then begin to discover everything I was meant to know. The Legacy Letters was the genesis of this amazing journey that I am continuing, even to this present day.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: He’s a cowboy, a rancher, and a small-town newspaper editor. He’s educated and poetic.
He lives by the earth and constantly strives towards the heavens. He is dying. He’s alone in a cabin in the mountains of his youth. And this is where he’s going to die. He’s tragically separated from his wife. And he will never live to see his children born. But he transcends the suffering of these last months of his life to write to his wife and children about his passion for living and everything that he believes in. It is not only a redemption story but a love story about life.
Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: Have you ever read The Rise and Fall of The Roman Empire? The writing of the complete Legacy Letters was unbelievably long, difficult, and extraordinary. Someday, I’ll have to tell you about it after I recover.
Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?
A: It’s easy. You read what you wrote the next day. And if it stinks, you throw it out. The two greatest forces in the world are fear and love. You have to love your work enough to throw it out. My greatest fear is falling in love with what I wrote.
Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: It’s my job to be inspired. It’s my job to trust that inspiration. Every day as artists we dive off the edge of ourselves and fall into the wonderful and darkly abyss of creativity, and somehow we are caught by some immensely beautiful magical force that eventually brings us back to ourselves.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I work early. 4:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The workaday hustle and yap is not allowed to invade this pure and concentrated time to create. After I’m finished, I can rejoin the rest of the world and my obligations to it. If world is ending at noon, I won’t know about it until after 10:00 o’clock.
Q: How do you define success?
A: A great conversation with an old friend under a starry night with a fine scotch and good cigar.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: If you don’t have a choice and you have to write, then you have to write. There’s always a price to pay for being your own person and remaining true to yourself. Sometimes it’s the price of love, other times it’s respect. Either way, you don’t have a choice, and that will be your destiny.
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: Thanks, George. Now I know I’m both sick and possessed.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: Live, live, live and then write. And then live some more . . .